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Assessment centres and group interview days for accounting grads

Team GradAustralia

You made it! Now it's time to show them what you're made of – read these tips so you can breeze through your accounting assessment centre and group interview.

For many large organisations, including the Big Four, recruitment to a graduate program generally begins with an online application, followed by an online assessment to further screen applicants (Ernst & Young and KPMG require candidates to pass two). Successful candidates will then progress to a video interview.

If you pass all of the online application screens, you will be invited to a group assessment or recruitment day, where you’ll listen to business leaders, past grads and recruitment managers talk about career paths within the company. This is also your chance to ask your own questions about the organisation and culture.

What to expect at a group interview

Group interviews usually take between three and six hours (so bring a drink bottle). You might be one of fifty or eighty candidates for around twenty roles so be prepared to stand out.

You will be observed from the moment you walk through the door, despite the fact that you might not have a single one-on-one moment the entire day.

Your interviewers will pay attention to everything, from the clothes you’re wearing to the position you choose to sit in and whether you acknowledge anyone around as you sit down. Be aware of your body language at all times.

You might be asked to introduce yourself to the room. This is your big chance to stand out from the crowd and break away from the nervous fray. Speak clearly and with confidence. Say your name and where you studied, but choose a quirky fact about yourself to add in. For example, ‘My name is Max and I just graduated from Sydney University. When I was five my brother used my pinkie as a launch pad for his Lego Tie Fighter and I’ve been able to bend it in weird ways ever since.’

If you’re asked about your greatest achievement try to steer clear of obvious answers, such as finishing university or scoring top marks in high school. Think about that time you successfully bred Sea Monkeys or taught your sister to sign ‘Happy anniversary’ for your grandparents. It’s clear that everyone in the room has achieved academically. Now it’s time to show ‘em what else you got!

Tips for success in group interviews:

  1. Sit up straight, look alert, and show that you’re listening whenever someone is speaking.
  2. Use your personal introduction to stand out.
  3. Give examples of your achievements that are quirky and memorable. Steer clear of common milestones, such as graduating or travelling.
  4. Voice your ideas and opinions during group activities.
  5. Listen to your teammates and demonstrate your support.

Group activities and problem-solving

Interviewers likely already have a list of candidates they’re most interested in based on the introductory part of the day. However, if you’re not on it, there’s still hope.

Group activities are usually comprised of a problem-solving task and are designed to assess how you work in a team to create solutions and build relationships. This is not the time to sit pretty and try to take some credit at the end. It’s important that you get in there, contribute your ideas and even demonstrate a bit of opposition if you don’t agree with someone’s opinion or suggestion (keep it civil, obvs). If you don’t want to engage in debate, it’s important to voice some kind of support and give your reasons.

Standing out in groups comes down to how well you connect with your teammates. Make sure you know everyone’s name, ask questions about what each person excels in, and try to build a solution based on everyone’s talents. You might not be a natural leader and hey, that’s fine. But understanding the people around you isn’t a leadership quality — it’s a professional one.

You need to strike the right balance between vocally expressing your ideas so that you get a look in and listening to others to demonstrate your awesome cooperation skills. It’s a tough balancing act and we feel for you, but you’ve definitely got this.